Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism (BMLOT) chairman Randall Walker’s ferocious passion for the Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Oberon region and tireless efforts in spruiking it to the world has been recognised with Rotary’s highest honour.
A closely guarded secret for months, the award was presented at a recent Rotary Club of Katoomba Paul Harris Fellowship Dinner at The Carrington Hotel, Katoomba.
The Paul Harris Fellowship, named after the Chicago attorney who founded Rotary in 1905, is awarded to individuals who have demonstrated the Rotary ideal of “service above self’’.
The 90 people who attended the dinner including local dignitaries, tourism and Rotary members and special guests Past Rotary District Governors David Cook and Jennifer Scott, Blue Mountains Mayor Daniel Myles and Councillors Chris Van Der Kley and Robert Stock; Blue Mountains State MP Roza Sage and Macquarie Federal MP Louise Markus.
Tourism Industry Council NSW chairman Ken Corbett, who ensured Mr Walker attended the dinner, was guest speaker.
Mr Walker has been BMLOT chairman for six years, during which time he has overseen its administrative restructure and independence from Blue Mountains Council.
He has been involved in the Blue Mountains tourism industry since 1998 and in 2006 established Explore the Blue Mountains, a business dedicated to providing customers with the best experiences the mountains has to offer.
Mr Walker is also a Greater Blue Mountains National Landscapes Committee member, NSW Forum of Regional Tourism Organisations foundation board member and inaugural chairman and Tourism Industry Council NSW board member.
Mr Corbett, who described Mr Walker as indefatigable, unrelenting, untiring, persistently optimistic and persuasive, said the most common word in communications from him was “optimal’’, meaning “best’’, “most favourable’’ and “finest’’ and an expression which summed up his constant aspiration.
He created win/win partnerships where success was shared by all, a principle at the forefront of the Rotary ideal, Mr Corbett said.
He also described Mr Walker as a great organiser, whose most recent achievement was arranging the official launch of the Blue Mountains Crossings Bicentenary 2013-2015 at Echo Point on February 23 which included a children’s choir, poetry, opera and theatre performances.
Under Mr Walker’s leadership, the BMLOT budget has increased from $600,000 annually to $2 million and he has worked with affiliates of the Gundungurra Tribal Council to create a new Aboriginal tourism product.
He is also a passionate advocate of the Greater Blue Mountains National Park. From his understanding if its place as the centrepiece of tourism marketing, he has worked to ensure its continued conservation for future generations.
Mr Walker thanked Mr Corbett and noted that all state and federal politicians of the region had been great supporters of tourism.
He mentioned that the $500 million the hospitality industry generated annually could be increased by seven given the multiplier effect of hospitality employees spending their income in the local area.
Mr Walker said BMLOT focused on sustainable tourism rather than just profit, and was grateful for the positive working relationship it had with local councils and National Parks & Wildlife Service.
Mr Corbett said Mr Walker’s quote that at the Crossings Bicentenary launch event that “good people doing good things’’ was an appropriate description of Randall Walker’s own work.